How Insect Pests Identify Unhealthy Plants with Dr. Tom Dykstra

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Tom Dykstra, the founder and laboratory director at Dykstra Labs, who also has advanced degrees in entomology and has worked with Dr. Phil Callahan. In this episode, we talk about plant and insect communications, and how plants can only see and feed on plants who are unhealthy (insects are only attracted to unhealthy plants). We also discuss Dr. Dykstra’s current day work in bioelectromagnetics, entomology, and agriculture. This episode is a truly amazing glimpse into these very fascinating areas and how they relate to plant physiology.     Support For This Show & Helping You Grow This show is brought to you by AEA, leaders in regenerative agriculture since 2006. If you are a large-scale grower looking to increase crop revenue and quality, email hello@advancingecoag.com or call 800-495-6603 extension 344 to be connected with a dedicated AEA crop consultant.       Episode 4 - Dr. Dykstra - Highlights 3:00 - What memorable moments lead Tom to where he is today? Getting fired at the University of Florida leading to the path he’s on now Work with flea larvae leading into Tom’s PhD project Insect bioelectromagnetics   5:40 - What is the potential impact of Tom’s work on agriculture? What might farmers be able to apply? Optimizing photosynthesis to optimize Brix level - leading to healthier plants   8:30 - Photosynthesis thoughts. How much is it possible to increase photosynthesis beyond what is normal? What tools can optimize it?  You can increase it substantially Most plants between 4-8 brix. 12 serious insect damage stops. 14 is a genuinely healthy plant Plants are not working up to anywhere near their potential It’s a matter of getting the photosynthetic rate up Need to not be putting up blockages - ex. pesticides Brix is by far the easiest thing to do to measure plant health Need to be weaning off pesticides immediately   17:30 - What can we do to increase energy flow in the soil profile? How much can you afford to lose? Start here Allow weeds to grow here - put out sugar as often as you can This is the cheapest and simplest way to clean out soil as fast as one season Switching over immediately can be a little painful, but anyone can transition slowly Cover crops can also help, but not quite as fast Erosion has recently become a problem   25:00 - Cover crops or applying sugar directly Cover crops take time and can help soil more over time  - directly applying sugar is a massive dose Variety of cover crops is better than just one   27:30 - Why has erosion become such a challenge? Because microbes are gone - leading to fluffy soil that is easily washed away   28:40 - What has been something Tom has puzzled over for a long time? How insects smell - Tom’s own research 10-15 years where Tom was unable to put the pieces together In Nov 2016, they were able to decipher details in how insects smell   31:20 -  Why some insects are attracted to certain regions while others are not? Insects smell with antenna and palps Certain insects are “tuned” into certain smells Some plants will advertise themselves as unhealthy - insects will not attack healthy plants Insects are only looking for digestible plants (unhealthy)   35:20 - What are some of the compounds that serve as insect attractants we could manage and monitor?  Ethanol is a universal odorant advertising plants as unhealthy - a lot of plants will release some sort of alcohol Every insect has its own brix cutoff where it will not attack a plant Massive brix level drop before a storm - temporary measure in plants   42:30 - Are nitrate nitrogen and ammonium nitrogen insect attractants? Indirectly, yes! High nitrogen is not a direct attractant, but the imbalance in the plant causes the plant to advertise itself because it’s stressed   48:10 - What are the possible detection distances for these insect signaling compounds? They can be detected by great distances! Tremendous. No matter the distance.   50:20 - Why do some people seem to attract mosquitoes, and some do not? Like plants, this is the difference between healthy and unhealthy people. Mosquitoes seek people who advertise themselves as having disgestable blood. Mosquitoes have a choice, and are going to choose the most digestible blood available   54:10 - What are the differences between healthy and unhealthy mosquitoes? Not all insects are going to have the same diseases. They have states of health and unhealth   57:00 - What has been something that has really surprised Tom? How different insects are smelling the same molecule - Tom’s focus in his research Insects have multiple receptors for smell Tom has learned throughout his life how little we know so far on these topics   1:01:20 - What does Tom believe to be true about agriculture that many others do not believe to be true?  Insects are only attracted to unhealthy plants  Because of this, pesticides are unnecessary   1:06:30 - What is a book or resource Tom would recommend? Going out there and talking to farmers directly Tom likes giving direct advice     Feedback & Booking Please send your feedback, requests for topics or guests, or booking request have a Podcast episode recorded LIVE at your event -- to production@regenerativeagriculturepodcast.com. You can email John directly at John@regenerativeagriculturepodcast.com.     Sign Up For Special Updates To be alerted via email when new episodes are released, and get special updates about John speaking, teaching, and podcast LIVE recordings, be sure to sign up for our email list.  

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